Pas De Deux
Copyright© 2012 by Texrep
The Ballet D' Anglais, unlike other companies did not have a permanent home theatre so could be described as a touring company, although most of its productions were in London. In the time we were together Antonia had performed at three London theatres and with the company had danced in Birmingham, Manchester and Edinburgh. These were usually for a single week of performances. She had just heard that the company had been asked to tour the U.S.A. Antonia was excited and depressed, obviously excited at touring the States and depressed because she would be away for at least six weeks.
We were having one of those fine spells that occur infrequently in England and we had gone up to the Heath to walk, enjoy the sunshine and to discuss the tour. "I'm in bits, Si. I shall be away from you for at least six weeks. The people who are arranging the tour are trying to get more bookings so it could be even longer." This was the depressed Antonia and then in the next breath I got the excited version. "We will be performing in New York, Boston, Seattle and then Los Angeles and Houston, we shall be seeing pretty well all of the States." Her enthusiasm was infectious although I was certain that this whistle-stop tour would not show her half of what the States had to offer. Then her happiness dissolved. "I am going to miss you terribly."
I stopped and took her into my arms. "Antonia, if it's for six weeks or eight weeks, it is little enough time compared with the rest of our lives and when we are old you will look back and treasure the memories."
"Are we going to grow old together, Si?"
"Yes. You introduced me as your fiancé, so you can't back out of it now, and I think we should make it official."
"Are you asking me to marry you?"
"Yes, Antonia. When you came to the flat I asked you to stay forever. Your life and mine are intertwined, without you I am just a dried up medical researcher, with you I am alive and I understand things that I have looked at but never seen. I love you Antonia and I want you to be my wife and my soul mate."
There was no hesitation. "Yes, Si. Totally and completely, yes. There's nothing I want more than to be your wife."
"We'll go and choose an engagement ring as soon as possible." I decided.
"Leave it until I'm back from the States, darling." I looked askance and Antonia went on to explain. "I can't wear jewellery when performing and once I am wearing your ring, I will never want to take it off." She paused and a mischievous smile spread across her face. "We'll phone Becky tonight and give her an update on our romance."
"Do you keep her informed of everything?"
"Oh yes, Si. She's my best friend after you. Becky got to know about the first intimate touch, the first kiss and of course you know about my telling her that we slept together."
"Is there nothing private?"
Antonia shook her head. "Not between a girl and her best friend."
The phone call was made that evening. Becky answered and Antonia, without any salutation announced her news. "Si has asked me to marry him and I have said yes."
Whatever Antonia was going to say then was drowned by the squeal of joy from the other end. "Oh Ant. that's great, I am so happy. My best friend has finally caught the best brother in all the world."
"She didn't catch me." I had to say something. "I came willingly." There was a sudden silence and then giggling from Becky and sniggers from Antonia. I realised my unintended innuendo. Between giggles Antonia carried on the conversation.
"Don't pay attention to him, Beck. He's a man and you know their thinking is always based down there."
"Don't I know it?" Becky laughed. "So when will it be?"
I answered that question. "As soon as possible when Antonia gets back from her tour to the States."
"See! He's eager." Antonia told Becky.
The fateful day, a Sunday arrived and I drove Antonia down to Bloomsbury where three coaches were picking up the company to take them to Heathrow. It appeared, wisely I thought, that they didn't trust the dancers to be on time for their flight should they be allowed to make their own way there. The dancers milled about, chatting to each other and with the well-wishers seeing them off. The Director, Mr. Ballinger was red-faced and perspiring as he tried to get his charges in order. Antonia was clinging to me as if her life depended on it, even as the last stragglers arrived and boarded the coaches she clung fiercely. The Director noticed and disembarked from the coach.
"Time to go Toni." He said gently. Antonia buried her face in my chest denying the moment. "Come along Toni. We must leave now." Reluctantly and with a final kiss she parted from me.
"I'll phone you as soon as I can." I nodded. To be honest this was hurting me as much as Antonia. She boarded the coach with Mr. Ballinger bringing up the rear like a shepherd dog rounding up the strays. The door closed and the coaches pulled away. The last I saw of Antonia was her waving at me from the back window. Unhappily I went back to my car and drove home alone.
The next morning I was grumpy at work. The other researchers and technicians soon learned to keep out of my way. I was in my office at lunchtime when Shelley came in.
"The boys and girls are telling me that you are a bear with a sore head." I grunted. Shelley went on. "Missing her already? It's only been a day."
"She won't be back for six weeks at least. That I will find difficult."
"I'll be happy to console you."
"Shelley I remember telling you that I am a one girl man. Just because that girl is away for a while doesn't mean that I can change that status."
"You wouldn't. It would still be a one girl situation, just the girl being different."
"What about Henry?"
"Henry will never be a one girl man. Anyway I think I am giving up on him. He took me to a party over the weekend. It was all cronies and floozies, low cut short dresses and legs all over the place. I suddenly understood how he viewed me, and I didn't like myself." I could see her eyes moisten in shame.
"I think you are being too hard on yourself."
"Possibly." She nodded. "But you could say it was an eye-opener at any rate. So while I am looking for my next millionaire I could help you get over your loneliness, or at least prevent frustration."
"Under any other circumstance, Shelley, I would be very happy to have you on my arm and in my bed. But Antonia and I are getting married when she gets back. If I can't survive for six weeks without her, I don't deserve her."
"If only a man would say that about me." The moisture in her eyes turned to tears. "Simon you are one of the best, and if I ever get the chance I will tell Antonia." She ran from the office.
I heard from Antonia frequently, although some of her phone calls were in the very late hours or early mornings, she hadn't got the hang of time differences. It became obvious that as the company travelled west the time difference would involve one or the other of us making or receiving calls at ungodly hours. I tried to call her at the hotels they used, but that seemed to be at times she was either performing or out and about. A couple of times they had not booked into the hotel they were supposed to be staying at. When we did speak she was angry as the organisation of the tour seemed to be quite haphazard. One of Antonia's little idiosyncrasies was her forgetting that her mobile phone needed recharging, nor topping up with credit so phoning her cell was a frustrating exercise as four out of five times she didn't answer. Consequently I had to rely on Antonia to phone me. Her sour mood mollified as the days rolled by.
"I can't wait, Si. Just four weeks to go and I shall see you again." She was counting down the days and weeks and with every day passed she was nearer to being home. The next time she called me she was disconsolate. The tour had been extended for another two weeks
Three days later Henry asked me to come to his office. He was as usual, urbane and full of himself. This is a good sign for him. "Ah, Simon." He welcomed me."Thanks for popping by." He got up to shake my hand and indicated the coffee pot on the side table. It was fresh and steam rose lazily from the spout. Being offered coffee was a good sign, or rather a sign that Henry wanted something from you. If he had poured the coffee himself it would mean he was to ask a very big favour. However I was left to pour my own coffee. It would be only a middling favour then.
"Simon. I will be going to the States in two weeks. There is a meeting that I should attend. However it has come to my notice that included in the proceedings will be seminars and discussion groups, so I think your presence would be advantageous. There may be some representatives of the big drug companies there but mainly many of your research colleagues from other countries. The venue is a hotel and conference centre in Denver. Shelley will get your accreditation and make your travel arrangements. Do you think you could get away?" The question was largely superfluous. Whatever I thought I was going. It was obvious from what he said that much of the discussion would be beyond him so he needed me there to talk the technical stuff, whilst he did what he did best. Politicking and shaking hands. I thought to get a little something for myself though.
"I will be happy to go, Henry. If I took a few days off before I could visit my cousins in Boston on the way. Would it be ok if I get Shelley to book me with a stopover there?" It was a spur of the moment idea.
"Perfectly alright." He waved his hands casually as if giving a benediction. "Just make sure you are in Denver for the 30th."
It was my grandfather's brother, who emigrated to the States in nineteen twenty-three. In those years emigrating was a usually a journey into the unknown. It also meant losing contact with your family. Some ties did survive with correspondence. But in the main those who emigrated never again saw nor heard from the relations they left behind. When I was at Cambridge University doing my medical studies I had used their library to trace as much of my family as I could. University libraries have far more detailed information than most online ancestry sites. Easton is not an unusual name and it took me quite some time and many blank leads before eventually I managed to contact my cousin Kent who lived near Boston. He was astounded when I got in touch and we exchanged long emails bringing both of us up to date. I teased him a little for his name, Kent, as that county in south east England was where our family had lived for over three hundred years. In phone calls he urged me to come and visit and meet the family, so when I phoned him and announced that I was coming to the States and would visit he was thrilled. His wife, Amelie came on the phone and in no uncertain terms told me that I would be staying with them. I had already made a reservation at the Marriott Long Wharf, courtesy of Shelley who told me that the Foundation would pick up the tab although they wouldn't know about it. Despite this I accepted Amelie's hospitality as from her tone I daren't do otherwise.
I tried to call Antonia to let her know I was coming to the States, but her mobile was either in need of more credit or had run out of charge and the hotel she was supposedly staying at in Pittsburgh told me that the booking for the Ballet D'Anglais had been cancelled. They didn't know where the company were staying. Pittsburgh was on Eastern Daylight time and was five hours behind London so my phoning as I was at eleven p.m. should have been convenient for Antonia at six early evening. The following night Antonia called me, waking me up at twelve-thirty. Apart from mutual assurance that we loved and missed each other I asked what was going on. "Antonia, you never seem to be staying at the hotel your schedule indicates."
"I know Si. I am as confused as you. The bus picks us up at the airport and takes us to a hotel of which we have no knowledge. Mr. Ballinger is getting extremely angry." There was nothing either of us could do about this so I went on to give her some good news.
"I am coming to the States next week. I am staying with my cousin Kent in Boston and then moving on to Denver for a conference. I am sure I could get a flight from Logan to Pittsburgh and see you. Even if only for a day." The wail of frustration could not be mistaken.
"Damn, damn. Si. We are flying to San Francisco on Saturday." My spirits dropped. "What date to you have to be in Denver?"
"From the thirtieth for five days."
"We will be in San Francisco for that time. Perhaps I could come over for half a day?" Antonia suggested.
"Antonia that's about a thousand miles."
"Oh! I thought they were quite close."
"Not too close." I replied. "Where will you be staying in San Francisco?"